My mother-in-law texted yesterday.
“Let us know if we can bring anything from Omaha!”
She meant that Trader Joe’s lemon kitchen soap I like and the little oatmeal raisin cookies that 2 1/2 years ago I put in favor bags for our wedding.
Since I’ve been home on maternity leave (Lila will be two weeks old on Friday!), all sorts of emotions have surfaced. Old feelings I thought I’d conquered are back. Old insecurities I knew I’d never really beat but had at least gotten good at pretending they were gone are here.
I am trying all the time to hold it together. Not because of the baby. She is wonderful and perfect and all-encompassing and beautiful and everything we could have ever asked for in a sweet pea. Not because of my other two babies, though the dynamics of a blended family continue at times to be more than I know how to handle. Not because of my sweet, sweet husband, who is the best dad Lila could ever hope to have.
Because sometimes, these days, I just feel lost.
Do we forget who we are?
Or does who we are change? Does that happen without us realizing it? Without us agreeing to it?
Many months ago, we were hanging out with friends, and I was talking about the mother of a friend of our daughter’s. “She’s a single mom, too,” I said.
I didn’t even realize l’d said it. But once I did, I couldn’t take it back and I think maybe right there, that slip may have illuminated why relationships are hard. Why relationships I have are hard.
Be confident, they teach us as little girls. Be independent. Learn to take care of yourself. Learn to not need anybody else.
While I’ve arguably, clearly embraced much of that, ironically I am one of the neediest people I know. I need to know I am loved by my partner. Even when I know, I crave reassurance, reminders, “I love you”s just because. I can imagine how irritating that need must be.
After my divorce, I had a social support system that allowed me to figure out who I was, who I wanted to be on my own and be that. I liked that woman I eventually turned into. The one who bought the yellow house in Dundee, the one who found live music as powerful as prayer, the one who got to share her life through blogs on that website for moms, the one who somehow managed to parent her babies on her own, at least for a little while. (The same one who wouldn’t trade the co-parent she is lucky enough to have now.)
So what I’m realizing this week, today, is that I’m not that woman anymore. Pieces of me are there, alive, but I’ve yet to figure out who this new me is.
Who this new me is with the most amazing partner, the man I love with all my heart, more than anyone else I’ve ever loved, despite the times we can’t seem to figure out how to understand each other.
Who this new me is without the things in Omaha I’d constructed to make up the details of my life. The yellow house. The live music. The nightlife. The best girlfriends I could ever hope to have. The job. Even the rock-star boyfriend.
Does it take a baby to spark this internal conversation? Does it take the quiet hours in the middle of the morning holding that baby while listening to that Bon Iver song your husband introduced you to but now can’t stand because his wife listens to it so much to prompt this introspection?
Does it take Cheryl Strayed and “Tiny Beautiful Things” to make you say, “Enough. Get it together already. Figure yourself out.”
Does it take tears in the middle of the night, loneliness, insecurity?
What about hope? Resilience?
I don’t have any answers. Not yet. But I know I – we – have love. And that makes us luckier than many.